A TRIBUTE TO J.E. ‘JOHNNIE’ JOHNSON, THE HIGHEST SCORING RAF ACE OF WORLD WAR II
The engineers at Rolls-Royce had worked their magic. They had somehow managed to squeeze every available ounce of power out of the current Merlin engine and by D-Day on 6 June 1944 the sleek Mk.IX Spitfires of Fighter Command reigned supreme in the skies over Normandy.
The magnificent Mk.IXs were, by far, the most numerous variant of Spitfires that fought from D-Day to the threshold of the Reich. In the great drive from Normandy across northern France, Belgium and into Holland the Spitfire pilots of Fighter Command threw down the gauntlet to any Luftwaffe pilots brave enough, or foolhardy enough, to tangle with them.
Perhaps the greatest pilot to ever fly the Spitfire was the RAF’s top fighter Ace ‘Johnnie’ Johnson. His resolute determination and steadfast leadership came into its own during D-Day and the subsequent advance through Normandy, and he would finish the war as the highest scoring Allied Ace in Europe.
The scene captures the moment when, as Wing Leader of 127 Canadian Wing, Johnnie is seen leading Mk.IX Spitfires from 421 ‘Red Indian’ Squadron RCAF out on patrol from their airfield at Evère near Brussels on a cold December morning in 1944. It is close to the fighting and the German front line so, as the Canadians climb steadily out over the snow clad landscape in the golden light of dawn, they are already alert and on the lookout for the first signs of trouble.